4 Prizes That Will Make You Think Differently About Contest Marketing

Discover four unique approaches to choosing prizes for your social media contests, including partnership prizes and gamified prizes.

By Will Blunt ・5 min read
Business & Marketing Strategy
Campaign & Contest Ideas

Free products, gift cards, and coupons…When picking a prize for a social media contest, it’s common to feel limited to only a few options.After all, what else can you give away that people actually want, which won’t break your bank?It’s an interesting dilemma, because, despite a long history of ‘free stuff’ dominating the sweepstakes industry, things are starting to change.With the growth of social media platforms in recent years, especially Instagram, there are more contests being held than ever before. The hashtags #contest, #contests, #sweepstakes, and #giveaway have over 35 million posts on Instagram.

giveway for Contest Marketing

Posts tagged with #giveaway on Instagram.Perhaps what is even more concerning for businesses looking to run a contest, a large portion of these posts go by without an ounce of engagement or interest.So, what can you do differently to make sure your contest attracts the attention it needs to be successful?The answer to that question is a multi-layered topic which would take far more than a single blog post to breakdown. However, one component of the answer is to take a unique approach with your choice of prize.Here are four prizes that will make you think differently about the way you approach contest marketing:

1. Partnership Prizes

One of the challenges with choosing a contest prize is the resources a business has available to them. Other than your own products, services, or a coupon for those things, what else can you offer?A trend in the contest marketing space at the moment is to run contests in partnership with complementary businesses or influencers. Beyond the obvious benefits of running a partnered contest, in terms of an extended reach and associated brand equity, you can also expand your horizons when it comes to the prizes on offer.For example, in the giveaway below, travel company Student Flights has leveraged their network to partner up with Etihad, Topdeck, Busabout, and Travel Money Oz, to create the ultimate European getaway.

partnership prizes for Contest Marketing

An example of a contest run with a series of partners.In another example, this contest from clothing brand Long Tall Sally, strategically promotes their activewear range by partnering with a gym and rewarding contest winners with a free gym membership:

long tall sally for Contest Marketing

An example of a contest run with complementary brands.The trend of partnering with complementary businesses is extremely common on Instagram, too. See how Deebee’s Organics has partnered with Fatso Peanut Butter in the Instagram contest below:

deebees organic partner trends for Contest Marketing

An Instagram contest that leverages more than one brand.In short, if you’re looking for a way to expand the reach of your contest and open up new opportunities for contest prizes, consider partnering with another brand or influencer.

2. Gamified Prizes

Some of the best social media contests use elements of gamification to elicit feelings of intrigue and excitement in participants.To ‘gamify’ something might sound difficult, but there are a huge number of small (and simple) things you can do to gamify your contest prizes which will help you stand out from the crowd.For example, City Blocks Catering gave away 23 different prizes, on 23 different days in the contest below. Participants could view a day’s prize by clicking on it on their landing page - a great way to gamify the prize-giving experience:

Gamified prizes like city blocks for Contest Marketing

An example of gamifying the prize of your contest.Another example of a contest prize which is gamified can be seen with a good ‘ol fashioned Easter egg hunt. The concept is that you hide ‘Easter eggs’ on your website and contestants need to find the eggs to win a prize. If you hide the eggs near the products/services which are the prize, it gamifies the contest experience and adds a unique level of interactivity to your giveaway that other businesses are unlikely to have.

Gamified prizes like easter egg hunt for Contest Marketing

Using an online Easter egg hunt to gamify a contest.

3. Pick a Prize

Allowing participants to choose their own prize isn’t a new tactic, but it’s certainly an effective way of engaging people and understanding their interests.If someone has the option of choosing their own prize, you can be sure they are going to be happy if they win it! Leading on from the last point in this article, the ‘Pick a Prize’ style of contest also taps into gamification - creating a fun and interactive experience for entrants.This example from Henne Jewelers uses this concept to generate interest for Valentine’s Day:

pick a prize like henne jewelers for Contest Marketing

A pick your prize contest from Henne Jewelers.And a slightly different example from Abeles & Heymann, a gourmet food brand, who are giving away high-value products which complement their business:

Example of Pick a Prize from Abeles and Heymann for Contest Marketing

Another pick your prize contest example.Above all else, letting participants pick a prize from a select set of options gives you valuable feedback on the interests of your prospective customers. It’s like a mini market research project as well as a lead gen campaign!

4. User Contribution

Influencer marketing and user-generated content have been steadily rising as a way for businesses to build trust online. This trend is starting to bleed into the contest marketing scene.Think about it, imagine if you could get users to contribute to the prize you give away? They will inevitably be more invested in the promotion, emotionally attached to the outcome, and willing to share it with their friends and family. Depending on the prize, they might even buy it once it is created!Let me illustrate this concept with a few examples. The first one is from radio station WCVE, where they used a contest to collect designs for a coffee mug:

User contribution for Contest Marketing

Radio station WCVE using user-generated content in a contest.Similar to design contests, you could collate a group of photo submissions and turn them into a product, as Pet Valu has done in this contest for a calendar:

User Contribution from Petvalu for Contest Marketing

Another example of a contest that uses user-generated content.For something a bit different, below is a contest example from Hay House Australia where entrants are required to submit a brief for a new book for a chance to win a writer’s scholarship:

Hay House Australia for Contest Marketing

Hay Australia thinking about user-generated content in a different way.The concept of a user-contributed contest prize is heavily under-utilized by businesses. If you can brainstorm a contest prize that requires a collective contribution, it can be extremely powerful from an engagement and virality perspective, simply because people want to share the things they create.


When picking a prize for your next contest or giveaway, don’t limit yourself to products, gift cards, or coupons.Consider collaborating with like-minded brands, gamifying the contest experience, giving participants a choice of their prize, or creating a prize based on user contributions.Each of these concepts will help you differentiate your contest in the sea of millions of social media posts fighting for your customers’ attention.

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About the author

By Will Blunt ・5 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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